Review Summary: Go loud or go home.
This was inevitable. In a culture where 3OH!3 are glorified within the seedy realms of frat boy dance music, it could only take something this unapologetically abrasive - this illogical - to get the indie kids to join in on the fun. It’s even stranger that it's where Sleigh Bells seem to fit in: drifting somewhere between trashy late-teen swagger and dirty, straightforward pop. Yet when demo tracks like “Ring Ring” and “Crown on the Ground” circulated in all their scuzzy glory (and like most of the demo songs they’ve been reworked to fit in here, the former being renamed “Rill Rill”), they made waves. The kids were excited.
Looking at Sleigh Bells strictly on paper, it all seems a bit too much. It’s too loud, too messy, too aggressive, and it’s all wrapped up in this two-piece package; a singer and a guitarist doing everything they can to leave you dazed in the corner after they’re done. Opener “Tell ‘Em” is the perfect litmus test: buzzsaw guitars, frenetic bass, and Alexis Krauss’ melodic, choir-girl vocal hooks make for something as initially uncomfortable as it is incredibly catchy. Though the unrespectable decibel levels may be slightly warranted considering Derek Miller (the instrumental half of the band) made his bones as a guitarist in metalcore act Poison the Well, where elementary school teacher-cum-vocalist Alexis Krauss finds all these sugary pop hooks is certainly a mine long left unharvested. In that sense she becomes the life force of Treats, if only for listeners looking for something to hold onto amidst the sonic boom.
It’s this incredible contrast of pop and volume that assembles every song, for better or worse. “Infinity Guitars” isn’t so much about toe-tapping as it is foot-stomping and as the guitars explode with a pinch of static during the final, raucous minute, it’s hard not to admire this complete revamp of what pop music is supposed to be. The back-to-back jam of blogosphere-igniting demo tracks “Rill Rill” and “Crown on the Ground” is arguably the highlight of the album, the former trading in the amplifiers for a lightly strummed guitar and melodic clicks, if only for a couple minutes, and the latter being essentially the perfect Sleigh Bells song, engulfing Krauss’ vocals in roaring synth and guitar swells.
The formula isn’t all success though, and though “Straight A’s” takes a page right out Crystal Castles’ book, indecipherable vocals and all, it tips the scale between chaos and melody dangerously. It’s a far sight from “Kids” though, the real rotten apple of the bunch; a song far too messy for its own good, combining heavily produced vocals with gimmicky valley-girl conversation samples (“Wait, did I forget my sunglasses? Nope, gooot
em!”) that end up more grating than anything.
More positively though, Sleigh Bells have crafted something entirely unique and that in itself is commendable, and the fact that they’ve done it with such a bold sound is all the more praiseworthy (or even surprising). Living up to the hype of being a blog sensation is never easy and you do get the feeling this is a sound that’s going to be incredibly difficult to sustain over the course of time but pop culture is just a series of fads and trends, so why not indulge? One thing's for sure: there are gonna be a lot of kids dancing awkwardly when the playlist reaches “Crown on the Ground”.